NASAA Notes: July 2022

July 12, 2022

Montana: Montana Circle of American Masters

The left side of the image depicts a seated Native American female artist doing beadwork in the light of a lamp. The right side of the image shows a finished traditional Crow doll with intricate beadwork around its neck and shoulders.

A member of the Montana Circle of American Masters Birdie Real Bird, a Crow tribal member in Garryowen, along with her traditional Crow Indian doll. Photo courtesy Montana Arts Council

Montana, also known as Big Sky Country, is home to diverse native and artistic traditions. To celebrate the state’s heritage and the deep relationship between place, landscape and culture, the Montana Arts Council (MAC) developed the Montana Circle of American Masters in the Folk and Traditional Arts. Through this program, MAC shines a spotlight on the contribution of Montana’s tradition bearers and honors their roles in preserving the state’s cultural heritage.

The informal motto for the program is “Inspired by our lands…made by our hands.” It celebrates art forms that are rooted in a particular community or family—learned informally, through careful observation and practice, usually from elders and often passed on from one generation to the next. Examples include but are not limited to quilting, beading, saddle making, tole painting, dance, songs and storytelling. Such artistic practices hold deep significance for the creators and their communities of origin, falling across a wide spectrum of occupational, ornamental, functional and spiritual expression. Because traditional art practitioners often are overlooked or “hidden in plain view,” this award is an important strategy MAC uses to expand visibility for and public understanding of the meaning of folk arts in Montana communities.

The award focuses on the traditional methods and techniques used, the skill of the artist, the method in which an artist has learned their art form, and the ways in which the artists have “listened to the heartbeat of the community.” Master artists must be recognized for their artistic excellence within their community, reflecting craftsmanship and authenticity. They should have a high level of skill and be active participants in their art form, as practitioners and mentors.

Montana’s Circle of American Masters in the Folk and Traditional Arts has been inactive in recent years but will be returning soon. Led by folklorist Taylor Burby, MAC is currently working to revise and update guidelines and application processes. To learn more about the program, contact Montana Arts Council Communication Specialist Eric Heidle.

In this Issue

From the President and CEO

State to State

Legislative Update

The Research Digest

Announcements and Resources

More Notes from NASAA




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